Thunder Need To Get Defensive Again
By Randy Renner
One of the biggest concerns anytime Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant isn't in the lineup seems to always be offense. How will the Thunder make up for all those points KD scores when he's playing?
Well, scoring points has NOT been a problem for the Thunder with or without Durant. The Thunder have scored at least 100 points in 17 straight games the longest such streak since the team has been in Oklahoma City and the longest since the SuperSonics did it in 18 straight games in the 1994-95 season.
The problem lately has been slowing other teams down. The Thunder have a streak going there too. Opponents have scored at least 100 points in seven straight games, in fact usually opponents have scored well over 100. OKC is averaging giving up 111.9 points over the last seven games, the thunder's record during that span is just 3-4.
That's not gonna get it done heading into the last month of a snakebit season that has seen the Thunder drop out of the playoff picture for the moment.
They were blown out at home Wednesday night by a short-handed LA Clippers team that managed to hit 15 threes.
"All over the floor defensively, we struggled," head coach Scott Brooks said after that game. "We didn't play the defense that we know we're capable of playing. We know what we have to do (before Friday's game) to get back to being a better defensive team."
The Thunder worked extensively on defense during Thursday's practice. The Minnesota Timberwolves, tonight's opponent, are 22nd in the NBA in scoring averaging 97.6 points a game. They've gotten better lately with many of their previously injured players, like former Thunder sharpshooter Kevin Martin, back in the lineup.
Still, Minnesota (14-49) is at the bottom of the West, partly due to a 5-25 road record. The Timberwolves have allowed league highs of 108.4 points and 49.1 percent shooting away from home.
One of only five road games all season in which they didn't allow 100 points came against the Thunder on January 26th, but Minnesota lost 92-84 for its fifth consecutive defeat in the series despite Durant sitting out that game also. The Timberwolves have lost 19 of the past 22 meetings, including 10 in a row at Oklahoma City since Nov. 28, 2008, when superstar point guard Russell Westbrook was a rookie.
Westbrook shot 7-for-22 in the last meeting but had 34 points on 12-for-19 shooting in a 111-92 victory in Minnesota on December 12th.
He'll attempt to send the Timberwolves to their seventh loss in eight games and fifth in a row on the road. Minnesota fell to 0-2 on its four-game trip with a 106-97 defeat to Phoenix on Wednesday.
The T-Wolves may be without bruising center Nikola Pekovic who had to leave the Suns game with a sprained ankle.
We'll update everything later today here on the blog and on our Twitter feed page.